Jamaal Hines grew up hooked on police procedurals on TV, imagining that he someday would solve crimes like the detectives on “CSI” and “NCIS” on behalf of innocent victims.
Enrolling at Old Dominion University in his native Virginia, he earned a bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice with a minor in Sociology.
“I really wanted to go into a field where I could just help the community on a regular basis, but there was a lot of negative connotations toward law enforcement that started real heavy around 2015,” Hines says. “So, I was like, ‘What’s another way that I could impact people?’ I fell in love with recreation.”
The path to that career led him to Anderson Hall.
And, three years after completing his M.S. in Sport Management from the Department of Kinesiology and Physical Education, Hines has landed a dream job as after-school specialist at Lake Braddock Secondary School in the Fairfax County Public Schools of Virginia.
He began Aug. 3 with plans to build on the same types of initiatives and opportunities he’s provided since 2019 for Fairfax County Neighborhood and Community Services as assistant director of the David R. Pinn Community Center.
“My access to kids will be 10 times greater. Instead of having my 40-maximum at the Pinn Center, there are thousands in the middle school and the high school,” he says. “I want to be able to impact more kids, not just within sports but within other extracurriculars and within their academic studies.”
Recreational programming makes a “unbelievable and substantial” impact on adolescents, he says, adding that he “wouldn’t be the human I am today without it.”
“Just from the structure of the programs that you create, you can teach those life skills to young people through sports. How to listen to authority. How to follow rules. How to work on a team. How to put a strategic plan into action,” Hines says.
“Those types of things are something I teach to all of my young athletes,” he adds, “and it’s something I can see them continuing to incorporate in their lives as they move beyond sports into college and into their trades.”
Hines offers himself as proof of the power of organized recreation.
“It’s got me out of where I came from. I had a rough bringing-up. It was just me and my mom. She worked two jobs to keep food on the table, and I saw how much she struggled and worked to get me where I am,” Hines says.
“If I have a chance to create a spark in some other kid to be as passionate about what to do in order to improve their life, it’s something that’s so great,” he adds. “What’s better than working every day to improve the life of someone else? That’s kind of how I feel.”
NIU – nearly 1,000 miles from home – came on his radar during a trip to Grapevine, Texas, to attend the annual conference of NIRSA: Leaders in Collegiate Recreation, formerly known as the National Intramural-Recreational Sports Association.
He was working for Old Dominion’s rec department then, and made the journey to the Gaylord Texan Resort & Convention Center in search of a graduate internship.
David Lochbaum, who is now associate director for Facilities and Operations at the Holmes Student Center but who then held the same title at the NIU Rec Center, made Hines an offer.
As graduate assistant of Facility Operations at the Rec, Hines helped to supervise staff, provide professional development and training to personnel and coordinate special event and programs, among many other duties.
He also was hired at the DeKalb Park District, where he worked as an athletic facility supervisor and program instructor, and volunteered to coach youth basketball for the Illinois Wolfpack.
Time in Illinois also included an internship with the Park District of Oak Park under Executive Director Jan Arnold. “Through our networking efforts at NIU, Dr. Steven Howell assisted me in locating this opportunity,” Hines says, “and I attribute much of my success in the industry to Mrs. Arnold and the PDOP Fellowship program.”
Within Anderson Hall, Hines truly found mentors in Howell as well as in Jenn Jacobs: “I really liked the professionalism and the networking opportunities that I had at NIU,” Hines says.
“I really liked that with Dr. Jacobs and Dr. Howell that it was more of a peer-to-peer interaction,” he adds. “It was no longer that student-teacher interaction. It was more of, ‘This is my professional opinion. This is my professional background. I want to grant this knowledge to you so you can take this knowledge out into the world and grant it to others.’ I really liked that collaboration.”
Collaboration – and advocacy – are important to him.
After months of continuing to engage remotely with youth at the Pinn Center during COVID-19, Hines expects to do the same this fall at Lake Braddock, which will begin the school year Sept. 8 as fully virtual.
Savvy at social media and marketing, he’s already creating electronic “welcome cards” to introduce himself while he looks forward to the challenges of a new job during a difficult time. “I’m really hoping to grow myself professionally,” he says, “and show people how hard I’m willing to work.”
That ethic is apparent in his involvement with the Fairfax County NAACP.
“We’re doing what we can to be socially active,” he says, “going out and letting people know that what is happening in the system right now is wrong. The systematic injustices that people are facing in this country based on their color, their creed, their religions, are wrong, and we just want people to be held accountable.”
Hines and his friends make regular trips to nearby Washington, D.C., where they bring water and snacks to protesters along with milk for those who’ve been teargassed. Sometimes they march themselves.
The activism is worth the time and effort, he says, and fits his moral code.
“I don’t think that anything I’m doing is out of line. It may be portrayed that way in the media, but every person that I’ve stood side by side with protesting has been a peaceful protester and, honestly, just wants the same thing that I want, and that’s for law enforcement to do their job and not overexert their power,” Hines says.
“I will continue to fight for that because that’s what I believe in,” he adds, “and I will continue to bring along as many people with me so that we can fight for this right for equality that we’ve been fighting for for hundreds of years.”
Such advocacy also “sends a strong message to the kids who are seeing me fight for them and fight for their people,” he says.
But for Hines himself, the fierce advocate in his corner is his mother, Tina Hines.
“My mom is hard-working, genuinely caring and made sure I never missed an opportunity,” he says.
“I didn’t have as much access to others to resources as other people had, but that woman did everything she could to make sure I never missed a practice. I was in three sports, year-round, and played travel ball in the summer,” he adds. “She made sure that I was involved because she knew how important it was for me to stay involved. If you’re not involved, you have opportunities to get on the wrong path.”
There’s another champion in his life: Hines himself.
Growing up in tiny Stuarts Draft, Va., where more than 95 percent of the population is white, “the scope was on me. The scope was on me. I was expected to get somebody pregnant. I was expected not to go to college. I was expected to mess with drugs and alcohol.”
None of those expectations came true, of course, but the one involving higher education did not come easily.
“I had to beg people in high places. I said, ‘These are my scholarships. This is my financial aid. It’s not enough. I do not have enough money to be able to follow my passions.’ I reached people who gave me grants, who gave me opportunities to be successful because they saw that passion,” he says.
“That’s all just remnants of my mom. That’s just her pushing me to be where I need to be. ‘Cs get degrees’ was not a thing for my mom and me,” he adds. “She’s been everything I needed her to be – that guider, that protector, that leader – and she gets emotionally overwhelmed when we start talking about where we started from to where we are now.”